He still holds positions on the board of Nord Stream 2 – which built the controversial and now abandoned gas pipeline between Russia and Germany – as well as its parent company.
German chancellor from 1998 to 2005, Schröder is a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling Social Democrats. The 78-year-old politician has been instrumental in deepening Germany’s energy dependence on Moscow – a relationship Berlin is now scrambling to unravel. And Schröder became a growing embarrassment to his party and much of the country as Russia waged its new offensive in Ukraine.
In February, as Moscow gathered its troops at the country’s border, he sparked outrage by criticizing Ukraine for its “saber rattles”. Since the start of the war, he has refrained from distancing himself from the Kremlin.
Former chancellor and friend of Putin at the heart of Germany’s fight against Russia
His decision to resign from Rosneft came a day after the European Parliament approved a non-binding resolution urging the European Union to extend sanctions to “European board members of major Russian companies and politicians who continue to receive Russian money”.
German lawmakers also approved a move that stripped him of the taxpayer-funded office and staff granted to him as a former chancellor. The changes, proposed by ruling coalition lawmakers, did not explicitly name Schröder but tied those expenses to official duties, making his office redundant. He is still entitled to his security service and his pension, which, according to the German press, amounts to more than 100,000 dollars a year.
Schröder is having the decision reviewed legally, according to Der Spiegel magazine. The former chancellor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Scholz described the decision to stop funding Schröder’s office as “logical”, but said sanctions against his predecessor were unnecessary. Scholz had called on him to resign from his positions on the board of directors.
Markus Ferber, one of the lawmakers who drafted the European Parliament resolution, told Reuters that holding a senior position in a large state-controlled company means Schröder is “de facto cooperating closely with Russia”.
The resolution also called on former Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl to resign from Rosneft’s supervisory board.
The intervention was also intended to dissuade Schröder from taking a position on the board of Gazprom, another key Russian energy company, according to Ferber. Gazprom announced in February that Schröder had been appointed to its board, with a decision expected at its annual shareholders’ meeting on June 30.
It was just the latest announcement in a decades-long relationship with Russian energy, sparked when Schröder used his final days in power in 2005 to cement Germany’s gas ties with Moscow. Then – facing an election he seemed certain to lose – he left the campaign trail to sign a letter of intent with Putin to build Nord Stream 1, the first Baltic gas pipeline between Germany and Russia. He became head of Nord Stream’s board of directors three weeks after leaving office.
Schröder also played a key role in facilitating the Nord Stream 2 deal, a gas pipeline that cost $11 billion and directly connects Russian fields to Germany. The idea of growing dependence on Russian energy was controversial in Europe, and the project was a sore point between Berlin and Washington until Scholz halted certification two days before the war in Ukraine began.
Public outrage directed at the former chancellor has only grown since the invasion of Russia.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Schröder called Putin’s war a mistake, but refrained from condemning Russia’s killing of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine. The incident “must be investigated,” he said.
He refused to disavow his friendship with Putin and said he did not believe the bloodshed in Bucha was ordered by the Russian leader.
Cheng reported from Seoul. Mary Ilyushina from Riga, Latvia contributed to this report.